The Pittsburgh Pirates, like other teams realistically out of contention for a playoff spot, are looking to the future. That doesn't just mean having a look at young call-ups this month.
There is a burgeoning competition in the rotation, one that isn't much more than a mythical designation at this point, but one that has been illustrated by two eye-popping stretches.
Right-hander Jameson Taillon, who is scheduled to face the Cincinnati Reds Wednesday in the finale of a three-game series at PNC Park, has made 17 straight starts allowing three runs or fewer, dating to May 27.
Taillon (11-9, 3.45 ERA) has competition for Pirates staff ace from right-hander Trevor Williams, who has a 0.66 ERA in his past nine starts, including 6 2/3 scoreless innings Monday in a 5-1 win in the series opener.
There has been no public sparring between Taillon and Williams over who is No. 1. Taillon, who has completed six innings in seven consecutive starts, just seems grateful for his growth as a major league starter. He will be making his 28th start Wednesday with 159 innings under his belt.
"You can learn from your success just as easily as you can from your failure. I seem to take something away from every start, every bullpen -- there's always something," he said Friday after he struck out seven in seven innings in a 3-2 win over Atlanta.
"It feels good to be taking the ball. It feels good to look up there and see my inning count up there. You see it on the scoreboard. It's something to be proud of, taking the ball and pitching deep into games. That's something that I want to be known for. I don't know if I've been known for that in my career the way that I want to be. So, going forward, that's a point of focus."
Taillon is 3-3 with a 4.50 ERA in 10 career starts against the Reds.
The Pirates (68-71) will be going for a series sweep Wednesday and are 11-4 this year against Cincinnati (59-81), which has lost five of seven overall.
Going against Taillon, 26, Wednesday will be right-hander Homer Bailey (1-13, 6.13 ERA), a grizzled veteran by comparison.
Bailey, 32, enters the game three strikeouts shy of 1,000 in his career, with 1,225 1/3 innings under his belt.
The Reds' struggles have affected his record. Cincinnati is 1-18 in Bailey's 19 starts.
He is 0-6 in with a 5.26 ERA in seven starts since coming off the disabled list because of right knee inflammation. However, he has 33 strikeouts and eight walks in 39 1/3 innings in those seven outings.
In a 12-5 loss to St. Louis Friday, Bailey gave up seven runs in five innings, but only three runs were earned.
"He's getting closer and closer to being what he can be, but as he goes through it, he's not getting away with anything," Reds manager Jim Riggleman said of Bailey. "Hitters are all over his stuff, and he's pitching into some bad luck."
Against Pittsburgh, Bailey is 10-7 with a 3.68 ERA in 23 career starts.